21 Oct

It’s been 15 years since Adam Sandler proclaimed that Donkey Kong Country was not only the best game ever, but also way better than Mortal Kombat. Ever since then we have been graced with two traditional side scrolling sequels, one 3D platforming adventure and a slew of much less impressive spin-offs. Now, after a nine year hiatus, Nintendo is finally giving us a true classic Donkey Kong sequel. However, several outstanding questions remain. What was it that made the originals so memorable and is there really any chance that this new iteration into the series will be able to stand on it’s feet among a slew of Wii banana peels?

The original dream team, Dk and Diddy.

Donkey Kong Country
We were given our first true Donkey Kong Country adventure on November 21, 1994. What we got was a visually brilliant platformed that pioneered a variety side-scrolling canon. The game itself is rather short but the sheer personality of characters made Donkey Kong Country’s three hour campaign something to truly be remembered. The game features one of the best soundtracks in gaming history by David Wies. If you don’t have DKC‘s Aquatic Ambiance on your iPod, you don’t know shit about video game music. This along with the engenious Advanced Computer Modeling sprites makes the game stand out even by todays standards.  However, once we knocked out the criminal King K. Rool and reclaimed our horde of bananas we happily marched back to our hut and high-fived Cranky Kong… that is when the great kidnapping happen.

Okay, Diddy's still here. I can still dig it.

Donkey Kong Country 2
At some point RARE, DKC’s original developer, decided the best thing for the series would be to remove the Donkey Kong from Donkey Kong Country and gave us Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest. We were thrown into a world where the rally cap wearing Diddy and his totally platonic girlfriend Dixy. The only real constant was K. Rool and his Kremlings. Although fun, DKC2 was nowhere near as good as it’s predecessor. Diddy and Dixy couldn’t fill DK’s tie knot and the once refreshing game play just wasn’t as fresh as our first adventure. RARE knew there was only one way to fix this.

Donkey Kong Country 3
Get rid of all the characters the fan’s grew to love and replace them with bland copies with  identical move sets. That’s what RARE decided would revive the series in 1996 with Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble. Dixie and her cousin Kiddy set out on a journey to find the missing DK and Diddy whom have disappeared during a routine fishing trip. A kidnapping! How original! The game play follows suit with particularly bland, short adventure to defeat the still clever K Rool.

WHY! Why would you do this to me!?

After DKC3, we the Kong Crew took a passable 3D adventure and the good ole’ Donkey Kong ventured out to play music, swing (not that kind, sicko) party, play tennis, play golf and overall do nothing of any notable value. It seemed that our favorite Ape got an apartment with Fox McCloud so that they could do nothing for fans for the rest of their lives. That is, until Retro announced a reappraisal of the long time series with an all new Donkey Kong adventure on the Wii.

Donkey Kong Country Returns
So here we are again. Retro Studios, who revitalized the Metroid series with Prime, is at the helm and willing to revive DKC sans all the useless characters and give us control of the original Kong Duo once more.  The game is Donkey Kong Country Returns, a hopelessly stupid title in-line with NEW Super Mario Brothers. Apparently, Nintendo thinks its fans are too stupid to delineate between a brand new game and a game that came out fifteen years ago. Thankfully, DK and Diddy are controllable once more in a beautiful looking 2D sequel to the Donkey Kong series. But what has to be done to keep the series relevant and avoid making the same mistakes that the previous sequels failed to realize.

Donkey Kong Country has an easy formula to replicate. Simple platforming with fast twitch mechanics in the form of barrels, mine carts and animal friends. So far we’ve seen the animal friends and game play that shows off barrels and mine carts. Admittedly, this had gotten a little trite in the past, but fourteen years is a long time for something to get fresh again. In fact, from what has been seen these old situations have been freshened up with interactive environments and theatrical scenarios. Even the typical boss battles have been given some fresh air by adding some 3d flare to the old-fashioned 2d fare.

Where many think the lynch-pin of the classic Donkey Kong series was DK himself. I believe that isn’t true. The only constant in the DKC series is actually King K. Rool. But what’s this? It seems K. Rool wont be showing his face in DKCR. Instead, Retro seems to be borrowing Aku Aku from the Crash games. Also missing are the myriad of Kremlings that populated the Donkey Kong world. Without DKC’s Bowser will the motivation to win be the same? From the looks of the game, odds are good. The stunning visuals and artistic reverence seem to overpower the loss of our once great foe. In fact, our new enemies seem just as lively as our old ones. I doubt the croc with the gold belly can be replaced, but at least it’s not Kiddy Kong working behind the scenes.

This is our new villian, the evil Tiki's

Here’s the main problem: it’s on the Wii. If there’s one thing we have learned it’s that the Wii can ruin most of the things we love with waggle. Remember our two modes of attacking in the DKC games? Jumping and rolling. Well, now in order to do one of those you have to flail your Wiimote like an idiot. Along with the ground pound and a few other moves it looks like you’ll be interrupting play time to shimmy about.

All in all, Donkey Kong Country Returns looks like it could be a hit. In Nintendo’s new plan to feed off our nostalgia like sparkly vampires, this title seems to be what we all want. It’s a great 2D platforming fest that celebrates the classic fare with memorable characters and involving game play. We’ll truly find out if it’s worth revisiting the classic series on November 21 (date sound familiar?),  when it’s released in the US for all of us to enjoy.

4 thoughts on “We can’t stop here! This is Donkey Kong Country.”

  1. Ok, first you should probably change this line: “That is, until RARE announced a reappraisal of the long time series with an all new Donkey Kong adventure on the Wii.” to Retro, since RARE has been with Microsoft since 2000. Second, are you going to talk about the 3D game at all, and the spin-offs, or is it just going to be the 2D games only. Just wondering as you mentioned them but didn’t talk about them in length at all.

    Thirdly, King K. Rool doesn’t need to be constant villain to make a good DK game. See, Bowser hasn’t been Mario’s only main boss, and Gannon hasn’t been Link’s sole main boss as well. Metroid is the same way. Not everything has to be constant in order to be good (insert game here).

    I can see your problem with the controls, as I didn’t like the ground pound waggle and the roll, but all the other controls were fine. I am just hoping for a classic control for the game.

    Lastly, I think the name is not really for the long time fans, but for the new generations that have not grown up with Donkey Kong. True the name isn’t super original, but when Nintendo dredges up an older franchise they haven’t used for awhile, they give the game a returning name to get people interested. Just saying.

    Other than that it was a good article. I personally liked DCK2 the best, and I didn’t particularly like DKC3 as much as the first two.

    1. As always Keck, you are observant as ever.

      1. I will totally fix that error and apologize for the unfortunate typo. Thanks for catching it.

      2. I did not see the need to discuss the 3D games or spin-offs in any great detail since Donkey Kong Country Returns is a direct sequel of the 2D series and not the 3D derivative. Also, I wanted to keep the article to about 1000 words and covering all the games in the DK universe would have put me way over.

      3. I see where your coming from but tend to disagree. It’s true, Bowser and Ganon are substituted out from time to time and usually I greatly welcome the change, but even in these instances the two villains are still present in the world. Because of the licensing issues I don’t think we will even hear mention of K. Rool. It will almost be as if he doesn’t exist. Not to mention that this particular series has been MIA for quite some time and I would more than welcome a returning cast after the long departure.

      4. I agree that the game is being marketed towards a new demographic, but that as not an excuse to simply slap RETURNS on the cover and send it to print. Kirby had been largely gone from the home console forefront since Kirby 64 in 2000, but Epic Yarn is not title NEW Kirby: But With String!

      The game is really fun though, the use of the background layers are innovative and it seems to be sticking to its roots in both look and sound. I am really exited to see what they can do.

      1. I too am waiting to see all of what Retro has done with the game. I got to play it at PAX, and it was good, except for the motion controls. My friend who also went to PAX said that the mine cart levels are as good as ever.

        Yeah licensing issues are a pain. I just wish Nintendo could buy the Kremlins from Rare, seeing as how Microsoft isn’t using Rare for developing games for gamers, and the Kremlins are just going to waste.

        I can see leaving out the spin-off games as they weren’t the greatest games in the world (interesting concepts though), and they have nothing to do with the return to form of Donkey Kong Country.

        Thanks for the comment. If I don’t stay observant, I get lazy, and that leads to bad things for me.

        I will be looking forward to reading or watching the DKC: Returns review when it comes out.

  2. I disagree about the two SNES sequels being lesser games. The original was a pretty ordinary platformer aside from the graphics, and I occasionally regretted the hype that claimed DKC was better than Mario World (it isn’t)

    The first game also has far too many cave levels (odd for a game with country in the title). I also dislike how finding all the bonus levels was hyped up in the Nintendo Power videos but you ultimately get nothing for doing it. The 2nd and 3rd games are much better in that regard.

    Lastly, I’m not really a fan of pirates, but this motif really makes the 2nd game stand out. I especially love the pirate themed music and interesting enemies, like the Cat O 9 Tails. Great reference!

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